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March 25, 2024

12 Boundary Violation Examples

Katelyn McMahon
Registered Psychotherapist, VT #097.0134200
two women hug, one of the women looks uncomfortable; boundary violation examples
March 25, 2024
10 min to read
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By now, you’re probably aware that having boundaries is an important way to protect your overall well-being. Maybe you’ve even started setting boundaries with the people in your life.

But how do you know when your boundaries are being violated? Sometimes it might be obvious, but other times it can be harder to tell.

That’s why I wrote this guide. Here, I’ll share examples of boundary violations to help you get a better sense of whether your limits are being crossed. If you’re still not sure, I’ve also included some common signs that your boundaries are being violated.

Let’s dive in.

Physical boundary violation examples

Physical boundaries have to do with your body and personal space. Here’s a look at some ways that your physical limits may be violated.

1. Unwanted touch

You have the right to dictate who touches you, as well as how, where, and when they do so.

  • Boundary violation example: You have asked your friend not to touch your hair, but they continue to do so. 

2. Invading personal space

Someone doesn’t need to physically touch you to cross your physical boundary. You also have the right to personal space.

  • Boundary violation example: You had a tough day at work and would rather sit on the couch alone, but your partner insists on sitting directly next to you. 

3. Inappropriate physical contact for the type of relationship

People aren’t entitled to a certain amount of physical touch from you, especially when it’s inappropriate for the type of relationship you have.

  • Boundary violation example: Your boss goes in for a hug at a work event rather than a handshake.

Emotional boundary violation examples

Emotional boundaries may be invisible, but they’re still important. Here are some examples of how people can violate your emotional limits. 

4. Sharing personal information

Your personal information is yours alone to share. If someone shares something about you without your permission, they may be violating your privacy.

  • Boundary violation example: You shared something with your close friend in confidence, and they told another mutual friend without asking you first.

5. Disregarding someone’s feelings

Your emotions deserve to be honored. Continuous disregard for your feelings is a common violation of emotional boundaries.

  • Boundary violation example: You told your mother-in-law that it hurts your feelings when she comments on your body, but she continues to do so.

6. Guilt-tripping

This is a manipulation tactic that weaponizes your emotions against you so someone else can get what they want.

  • Boundary violation example: You have a migraine and want to skip a planned dinner to rest. Your partner reminds you of everything they do for you to guilt you into coming anyway.

Professional boundary violation examples

Boundaries are just as important in your professional life as they are in your personal life. Here are some ways that your professional boundaries may be crossed.

7. Having dual relationships

While there’s nothing wrong with being friendly with your coworkers, having both a personal and professional relationship with them can cause blurred lines.

  • Boundary violation example: Your boss presses you about your weekend plans and wants to invite you over for dinner. You feel uncomfortable saying no but also don’t feel like you can.

8. Overstepping roles

Professional associations don’t give just anyone the right to say whatever they want about your work.

  • Boundary violation example: Your coworker makes negative comments about when and how you complete your work, even though you don’t report to them. 

9. Sharing confidential information

It’s tempting to talk about your work life, but it needs to be done with sensitivity.

  • Boundary violation example: You overhear a coworker talking to another employee about a client, even though the other employee isn’t directly involved in their case.

Digital boundary violation examples

Many aspects of life can take place online, even if you have sworn off social media. These examples show how your digital boundaries can be violated.

10. Cyberstalking

Even if you post something publicly online, the way that other people interact with it can cross your boundaries.

  • Boundary violation example: You blocked your ex after your breakup, but they continue making new accounts and trying to follow you.

11. Sharing someone else’s personal information online

We’ve already gone over how talking about a person to someone else can cross a line. The same goes when it takes place in a digital setting.

  • Boundary violation example: Your mom made a post announcing your pregnancy online before getting your permission.

12. Sending unsolicited content

Just because you’re online doesn’t mean you consent to getting bombarded with unsolicited content.

  • Boundary violation example: One of your classmates from college keeps DMing you with information about her business even though you’ve told her that you aren’t interested. 

Signs that your boundaries are being violated

Even if the above examples don’t resonate with you, your boundaries may still be violated. Here are some common signs that may indicate someone in your life has crossed a line.

  • You feel physically uncomfortable. Even if what someone did “on paper” doesn’t seem particularly egregious, they may still be crossing your boundary if you feel sweaty, tense, or generally yucky. 
  • You feel steamrolled or pressured. If you feel backed into a corner, frozen, or like you have no choice but to agree, someone may be pushing you too far.
  • You have to repeatedly express your boundaries. It’s not fair to expect people to know your boundaries if you haven’t communicated them. But if you have to express them time and time again, someone clearly isn’t listening. 
  • You feel resentful. If you went along with something but then felt angry or upset after, you may have allowed your boundary to be crossed without realizing it.

While these signs aren’t a foolproof way to know whether or not your boundaries have been violated, they can help you become more aware of when a limit is needed and when it’s being pushed or disregarded.

How to handle boundary violations

It doesn’t feel good when your boundary is crossed. If you’re new to setting boundaries, or if you’ve repeatedly communicated your limits and they continue to be disregarded, it may be tempting to give up on having boundaries altogether.

While those feelings of frustration are valid, know that it’s up to you to set, enforce, and maintain your boundaries. They exist to keep you safe–physically and emotionally–and you deserve to have them respected.

Here are a few ways to respond when your limits are crossed.  

  • Remind yourself that your boundaries are valid. When someone disrespects your boundaries, you may second-guess yourself. However, I encourage you to reassure yourself that your needs are valid and that your boundaries exist for a reason.
  • Identify consequences. Outlining the consequences of continued boundary violations can help others understand what to expect. For example, if your dad keeps calling you early in the morning even though you’ve asked him not to, you can say something like, “If you continue to call me before I’m available, I will not answer the phone.”
  • Follow through. Boundaries mean nothing if you don’t uphold them. If you set a consequence for a boundary violation, you must follow through. Otherwise, you may send the message that your boundaries are more flexible than you let on.
  • Reflect on the relationship. If a person continues to disregard your boundaries, consider the degree of contact you want to have with them. It may be worth taking some space for the relationship if you don’t feel respected.
  • Get support. Learning how to effectively set and enforce boundaries can be difficult, especially if you identify as a people-pleaser or struggle with codependency. Working with a therapist can give you the insight, skills, and support you need to effectively set limits and respond to boundary violations.

This isn’t an exhaustive list, but these tips can help you start responding with confidence when someone oversteps your limits.

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Written by
Katelyn McMahon
Registered Psychotherapist, VT #097.0134200

Katelyn is a therapist-turned-writer with a passion for mental health. She has a Master's degree in Social Work from the University of England and is a Registered Psychotherapist in the state of Vermont. Katelyn has professional experience in aging care, addiction treatment, integrated health care, and private practice settings. She also has lived experience being on the client side of therapy. Currently, Katelyn is a content writer who’s passionate about spreading mental health awareness and helping other therapists and therapy-seekers Do The Work.

Reviewed by
Kristie Plantinga

Kristie Plantinga is the founder of Best Therapists. Along with being on the client-side of therapy, Kristie has had the honor of working directly with therapists in her marketing agency for therapists, TherapieSEO. While working alongside therapists, she learned about the inequities in our mental health system that therapists face on a daily basis, and she wanted to do something about it. That’s why Best Therapists is a platform designed to benefit not only therapy-seekers, but therapy providers. Kristie has a Masters degree in Written Communication and a Bachelors degree in Psychology and Music.

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